Digital Chocolate launches real-money gaming title Slots! Pocket UK

slots-pocket-uk-logoSocial-mobile gaming developer Digital Chocolate today launched its first real-money gaming title Slots! Pocket UK for iOS in the U.K.

Powered by real-money gaming platform Betable, Slots! Pocket UK is a slots game that allows U.K. users the option to wager either real money or virtual currency and chips on pulls of the slot machine. Betable first announced its partnership with Digital Chocolate back in November 2012. Digital Chocolate is one of 10 developers so far to partner with Betable for its real-money gaming platform, which is still a private beta program. Betable handles all the real-money aspects of the game on the backend, including compliance, fraud prevention, identity checks, wagering, and gambling results, while Digital Chocolate can focus on the development of the actual game. In order for players to gamble with real money, they must be authenticated with Betable by signing up, depositing money, and more.Slots Pocket UK screenshot 1

“[Betable] helped us leapfrog the whole race into real-money gaming by allowing us to partner with them on their platform, and of course, they have the license in the U.K. to do real-money gaming,” Jason Loia, chief operating officer of Digital Chocolate, told Inside Mobile Apps.

Continue reading on Inside Mobile Apps.

27M users bought virtual goods using Facebook Payments in 2012; Zynga’s influence on revenue further diminishes

gamesApproximately 27 million users bought virtual goods using Facebook Payments in 2012, up from 15 million in 2011, according to a document the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

Facebook generated $810 million in payments revenue in 2012. CFO David Ebersman said only $5 million of that came from sources outside of games, such as Gifts and user promoted posts. Overall, payments and other fees revenue in 2012 increased $253 million, or 45 percent, compared to 2011, despite close to doubling the number of users buying virtual goods.

That could be because of Facebook’s promotions to get more users spending money in games. Although the volume of paying users increased, it the amount new payers spend could be much less than other players. Another factor could be growth in international markets. Facebook says 51 percent of its revenue from marketers and developers based in the United States, compared to 56 percent in 2011. This figure includes advertising revenue as well, but international developers are increasingly finding success on the social network and the overall number of international users is growing much faster than in the U.S.
(more…)

PopCap, Hasbro announce Bejeweled ‘face-to-face’ games

Toy and board game company Hasbro today announced it has obtained the license to develop and distribute a wide range of physical games based on game developer EA PopCap’s properties.

Hasbro says it will introduce two new games in the spring of 2013 based on Bejeweled, which has sold more than 50 million digital units worldwide, and has 2.7 million daily active users on Facebook with Bejeweled Blitz.

Not surprisingly, In Hasbro’s new Bejeweled physical game players will also swap gems to match 3 or more to win. Hasbro’s Bejeweled Frenzy will be a fast-paced card game that challenges players to match gems to build stacks of cards as fast as possible.

Hasbro says the new physical games will add value to their digital counterparts, though so far all it revealed is that Hasbro’s Bejeweled will include a downloadable version of Bejeweled 3 for the computer, and Bejeweled Frenzy will include a code for Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook which can be redeemed for four Rare Gems.

The deal between Hasbro and PopCap comes on the heels of a similar deal Hasbro made with Zynga in September 2012 to distribute board games based on Zynga’s social games, some of which we were able to play in October.

Japanese developers abandon kompu gacha mechanics in social games

Developers GREE, DeNA, Mixi, CyberAgent, Dwango and NHN Japan have announced they are removing a controversial monetization mechanic called “kompu gacha” from all their mobile-social games by the end of the month.

Kompu gacha (“complete gacha”) is akin to a virtual toy machine where players pay real world money to receive an in-game item at random. Players have the opportunity to win grand prizes, but only if they can acquire complete sets of specific items. Although an extremely lucrative income stream for Japanese developers, kompu gacha has drawn harsh critisism both for how close it is to real-world gambling and for the easy access children have to it. Over the weekend the mechanic was found to be in violation of Japanese law and a ban is widely anticipated.

Although the news will mainly affects Japanese developers, several western companies also make use of the mechanic in their Japanese mobile-social games. Zynga, for example includes kompu gacha in its Android role-playing game Montopia. For a more detailed explanation of kompu gacha and how its elimination will affect developers outside of Japan, read our feature investigation at our sister site Inside Mobile Apps.

Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social and Mobile Gaming Audience 2012, Is Here

If 2011 is remembered as the year that games on mobile platforms grew quickly and games on social networks continued to mature, 2012 is quickly becoming the year that mobile games ecosystems are beginning to mature as well. Given massive changes in the Facebook monetization ecosystem over the last year, last year’s hit games are fighting for their lives, and new developers and games are climbing the leaderboards. At the same time, larger players are consolidating smaller studios and teams, investing heavily in a portfolio approach across mobile and social, and large media companies and traditional game developers continue to plot their social and mobile gaming strategies.

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That’s why we’re excited to announce today a new original study in our Inside Virtual Goods series by co-authors Justin Smith and Charles Hudson that is exclusively focused on spending and usage patterns in the social and mobile gaming market, entitled Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social and Mobile Gaming Audience 2012. The third annual installment of this report, and is being released for the first time today.

As a leading source of independent information on the social and mobile games industry, our third annual survey of trends in this market are more valuable than ever for those looking for an unbiased view on player behavior trends. Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social and Mobile Gaming Audience 2012 is our exclusive independent look at the virtual goods spending and behavior patterns of social game players on Facebook, iOS, and Android — data you won’t find anywhere else.

About the Report

Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social and Mobile Gaming Audience 2012 gives you an inside view of the market at this critical juncture in the intersection of social networking, mobile applications, and online games.

We have surveyed nearly 3,000 players of social games on Facebook, iOS, and Android from around the world and across the demographic spectrum. Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social and Mobile Gaming Audience 2012 is the most in-depth independent survey of player behavior and spending patterns in the social gaming market.

What We Cover

  1. Spending Habits and Payment Methods in Top Games – It’s easy to compare games based on audience numbers, but which games monetize better? What payment methods do players use most often in top games? How is the shift to Credits affecting player behavior? We investigate how spending patterns compare across top social amd social games.
  2. Frequency of Play and Methods of Game Discovery - As Facebook has cut down on developer access to viral channels, and cracking iOS and Android discovery continues to increase in complexity, designing an engaging and viral game is becoming both increasingly important and challenging. We investigate which games people play most frequently, and which methods of game discovery are most effective for top games.
  3. Demographic Differences by Region, Age, and Gender – While the social and mobile gaming markets are increasingly global, the audience is also becoming increasingly diverse by age and gender. How do different segments of the audience differ in terms of spending and usage patterns inside social and mobile games? We take an in depth look.
  4. Brand Recall - How important are brands, and how well can users identify developers of top games? We investigate brand recall amongst social game players.

See the full table of contents below:

Table of Contents

I. Methodology and Respondents

 

1. Introduction

  • Survey Objectives

II. Social Games Player Spending and Usage Habits Survey Results

 

2. Research Methodology

  • Respondent Acquisition Method
  • Target Population
  • Survey Structure
  • Potential For Bias
3. Survey Respondents

4. Favorite Game

  • Distribution of Favorite Game
  • Frequency of Play
  • Discovering Favorite Game
  • With Whom Do You Play?
  • Spending on Favorite Game
5. Payments
  • Frequency of Payment Methods
  • Consumer Perception of Facebook Credits
6. Play Patterns, Spending, and Brand Recall for Top Games
  • Frequency of Play in Top Games
  • Spending in Top Games
  • Aided Brand Recall for Top Games
7. Mobile Platforms & Game Adoption by Active Social Games Players
  • Smart Device Ownership
  • Mobile Games Played by Active Social Game Players
  • In-Game Mobile Purchase Activity by Active Social Gamers
8. Regional Differences
  • Game Discovery and Spending
  • Favorite Game
  • Payment Types
9. Age and Gender Differences
  • Who are the Social Gaming “Whales”?
  • Spend Across Games

III. Mobile Games Player Spending and Usage Habits Survey Results

 

10. Survey Methodology on Mobile

  • How we acquired users
  • Targeting by platform

11. Demographic Information

  • Gender
  • Age distribution
  • Regional distribution

12. Device Ownership

  • Overall distribution of device ownership by platform
  • Multiple device ownership

13. Monthly Game Usage

  • Top games based on monthly usage

14. In-App Purchase Activity

  • Differences by gender
  • Differences by region
  • Differences by device platform

15. Paid Apps Activity

  • Differences by gender
  • Differences by region
  • Differences by device platform

16. Application Discovery

17. Facebook Habits of Mobile Game Respondents

Appendix – Survey Questions

Appendix – Related Companies

 

More Data, More Actionable Insights

In 2010 and 2011, social games began to show what kind of value can be created on top of social networks, and mobile games began to become and even bigger part of the pie. 2012 will be an even more important year as the industry continues to mature.

Mobile gaming, powered by virtual goods, is this year’s industry to watch. If you’re involved, or are considering jumping in, Inside Virtual Goods will be one of your most important tools.

One year of original data and exclusive in-depth reports delivered on a quarterly basis is $2,495 and contains:

  • A detailed overview of the current state of the industry
  • Specific estimates on market size by segment
  • Diagnosis of key opportunities and issues by segment

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The one year subscription includes three quarterly updates on key developments in the space, including future editions of our annual reports, Inside Virtual Goods: The US Virtual Goods Market 2011-2012 and Inside Virtual Goods: The Future of Social Gaming 2012. Or, you can download just this report.

About the Authors

charles-hudson-headshotCharles Hudson

Venture Partner, SoftTech VC, CEO and Co-Founder, Bionic Panda Games

Charles Hudson is a Venture Partner with SoftTech VC and the CEO and Co-Founder of Bionic Panda Games, a mobile games company based in San Francisco, CA.

Until February 2010, he was the VP of Business Development for Serious Business, a leading producer of social games. Zynga acquired Serious Business in February of 2010. Prior to Serious Business, Hudson worked at Gaia Interactive, Google, IronPort Systems, and In-Q-Tel. Hudson also founded Third Power LLC, a conference and events company that was acquired by WebMediaBrands. Charles holds an MBA and BA from Stanford University.

justin-smith-headshotJustin Smith

Founder, Inside Network

Justin Smith is the founder of Inside Network, the first service dedicated to providing news and market research to the Facebook platform, social gaming, and mobile app ecosystems. Inside Network was acquired by WebMediaBrands (NASDAQ:WEBM) in May 2011.

Prior to Inside Network, he was Head of Product at Watercooler, now Kabam, a leading social game developer on the Facebook Platform. Prior to Watercooler, Justin was an early employee at Xfire, the largest social utility for gamers, which was sold to Viacom in 2006.

Justin holds a degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University, where he was a Mayfield Fellow and a recipient of the Terman Award in Engineering.


Social gaming news roundup: SGN, Kabam and virtual goods

Playspan: virtual goods consumption up 28 percent since 2009 — According to a study conducted by digital monetization company Playspan, U.S. consumers bought $2.3 billion dollars worth of virtual goods in 2011, spending an average of $64 dollars per person. Playspan included purchases within a game or app, purchases from a console like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, prepaid cards and purchases from online stores and publisher’s websites in its study.

Adobe unveils AIR 3.2 — Adobe has announced the latest updates to Adobe AIR. Version 3.2 of the tool includes both 2D and 3D hardware acceleration, which will allow games to run at 60 frames per second.

87 percent of US gamers play on Facebook or casual gaming websites — According to the latest study from Newzoo, 87 percent of the 145 million gamers between the ages of 10 and 65 in the U.S. either play games on Facebook or through casual portals like King.com. Newzoo also found that 87 percent of Facebook gamers also play games on casual games websites.

Kabam games now available on Download.com — Four of Kabam’s social games, The Godfather: Five Families, Edgeworld, Thirst of Night and Dragons of Atlantis are now available as full-screen, downloadable apps at Download.com. The desktop apps are made by SweetLabs, and were previously available on the company’s Pokki platform.

FarmVille and CityVille go tropical — Zynga has announced the newest expansion for FarmVille will be FarmVille Hawaiian Paradise. The update, which includes a tropical landscape, buried treasure, aquaculture and a new special coconut currency, goes live on Monday. The newest CityVille expansion, CityVille Islands, launched on Feb. 29.

Fiveonenine Games signs with GamesAnalytics — Durham-based social and mobile startup Fiveonenine Games is the latest company to sign a deal with GamesAnalytics. Fiveonenine will incorporate the company’s analysis tools in its upcoming games.

Dungeon Overlord expanding, going mobile — Night Owl Games has added the first expansion to its Facebook game Dungeon Overlord, titled The Succubus Stories. The developer will also be unveiling a companion mobile app for iPhone and Android at PAX East in April.

[Release] Rounds releases Facebook game based on interactive music video — Israeli-based Facebook video chat app maker Rounds has released a game using its technology to promote the rock band We the Kings. The game, based on the video for the band’s single Say You Like Me, was developed by Interlude.

[Release] Marvel: Avengers Alliance launches — After a lengthy preview period, Disney has finally launched Marvel: Avengers Alliance on Facebook. Our full review of the game can be found here.

[Release] Syfy releases Syfy Monster Island — Cable network Syfy has released a social game based on its over-the-top original movies. Called Syfy Monster Island, the game allows players to hunt prey like the Sharktopus. Syfy Monster Island is available on Facebook and the Syfy Games website.

[Announcement] Mindjolt SGN now just SGN – As of Feb. 28, Mindjolt SGN is now officially just Social Gaming Network, or SGN.

Zynga Japan launches Pokémon-like RPG, Montopia, for iOS

Little has been heard from Zynga Japan since the company shut down the Japanese versions of FarmVille and Treasure Isle on social network Mixi, but now the studio seems to be making up for lost time with Montopia, a new iOS RPG that has a lot in common with Nintendo’s Pokémon games.

According to Dr. Serkan Toto, Zynga Japan is billing Montopia as a “Monster Battle RPG.” The core gameplay consists of players going out on adventures where they capture, raise and train monsters to fight for them. Along the way, players can engage in activities like gacha gameplay, breeding more powerful creatures, collecting virtual items and battling other players. At the time of launch, there are 200 different types of monsters available to collect.

Some of the decisions surrounding the title are raising a few eyebrows. Even though
Montopia is a social game, it hasn’t been added to popular Japanese social networks GREE, Mixi or Mobage (though the Montopia official website says that an Android version of the game is coming soon). Additionally, even though Montopia is playable in both English and Japanese, it isn’t available in Western territories and Zynga has yet to announce any plans to make it so. That last bit is a particular head-scratcher: When a fake version of Pokémon Yellowclimbed to the #2 position on the App Store last week, it proved that there’s obviously a market for this type of game on iOS.Gacha is incredibly popular in Japan, but it has yet to really catch on with social games in the West beyond a handful of titles — like Monster Galaxy, Miscrits of Sunfall KingdomMiscrits of Volcano Island and Monster Fusion. Zynga sometimes likes to test out new IPs in foreign versions of the App Store before they receive wider releases (witness Dream Heights’ launch on the Canadian App Store), so it seems entirely possible North American gamers might get a chance to try Montopia out sooner rather than later. Currently, Monster Galaxy still ranks as the top Pokémon-themed game on Facebook with 1.3 million monthly active users and 110,000 daily active users.

Video advertising pushes SponsorPay’s revenues up 125 percent year-on-year

Cross-platform in-game advertising company SponsorPay is reporting year-on-year revenues increased 125 percent in 2011, crediting the growth to its new Android pay-per-install network and its video advertising product BrandEngage.

SponsorPay’s growth reflects the increasing popularity of video advertising, as the format has gained traction in both mobile and social games over the past year. SponsorPay launched BrandEngage last July, following on the heels of competitors like Flurry and Tapjoy, who began offering video advertising products after it began to become apparent they performed far better in mobile apps than traditional banner ads. SponsorPay’s BrandEngage product allows advertisers to show players both videos and brand engagement campaigns, which the player can watch, Like and share.

SponsorPay began its life as a virtual goods monetization company on Facebook, but followed the same trajectory as many of its clients, looking to mobile after the mandatory use of Facebook Credits made the platform far less lucrative.

The Berlin-headquartered company picked up $5 million in funding from Nokia Growth Partners in February to develop its mobile product lines. SponsorPay’s advertising appears in games from Ubisoft, Bigpoint, Gameview Studios and Digital Chocolate. The company is predicting similar growth in 2012.

Trending Now: 2011 Holiday Content in Social Games

Seasonal promotions and Christmas campaigns are nothing new to social games, but this year Facebook game developers seem to have invested even more effort into holiday content.

We did a quick survey and found that 21 out of the 25 most popular Facebook games have incorporated holiday themes, items, quests, giveaways and content this year — a massive increase over last year, when we saw less than half the most popular social games put in the effort. Here’s a breakdown of the various ways in which these developers have introduced holiday-related content in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Timed Holiday Quests

As seen in: Pet Society, CityVille, Animal Town

As most developers are already aware, adding new objectives and goals can maintain or raise retention rates in social games. Christmas offers the perfect excuse to roll out new quests that coincide with the holiday. In previous years, these themed quests had no time limit — but in 2011, most holiday content is now specifically timed to expire if the player doesn’t complete the quests before the holiday itself. These limited time quests may actually produce better retention rates as players feel pressured to log more time to complete the quests. This year we’ve seen games with lighter campaigns, such as Animal Land’s holiday plant and shop quests; and much more engaged campaigns that add to the overall plot of the game, like CityVille’s Holiday Saga.

Themed Decorations

As seen in: The Sims Social, Gardens of Time, The Smurfs & Co.

While social games monetize in a variety of different ways, one of the most common is through the purchase of premium decorations and items. Just as people decorate their homes and workplaces in real life, developers assume that some players won’t mind spending a few extra Facebook Credits on holiday decorations, particularly if the game has already made seasonal cosmetic changes that make those extra items seem even more appropriate and desirable. As with quests, the type of decor a game adds can range from something minimal but Christmas-inspired, like Tetris Battle’s present shaped tetriminos, to The Smufs & Co’s Christmas themed decorations that provide additional bonuses besides looking festive. The Sims Social’s in-game store is so far the only game we’ve seen that offers Hanukkah decor items like dreidels and menorahs.

Cosmetic Changes and Gifts

As seen in: Triple Town, Ravenskye City, Car Town, Bubble Witch Saga

Cosmetic changes and holiday giveaways are probably the lowest impact way for developers to incorporate Christmas into their games. This is a trend we’ve seen far more of this year as mid-market and smaller developers have invested more in art quality and presentation. Gifts are useful because they keep players logging in every day, and we’ve seen quite a few games doing 12 days of Christmas-themed events. However, what might be the most common theme of all this year is snow — a simple decoration that developers can automatically add to games without involving the player. Most cosmetic changes we’ve seen this year have been paired with premium decor items.

Seasonal Sales

As seen in: Tetris Battle, The Sims Social, FarmVille, The Smurfs & Co.

It’s a common practice for retailers to discount items in December to take advantage of relaxed credit card limits and increases in spending behavior, and we’ve seen a lot more developers add seasonal sales this year. Ubisoft has introduced a discounted Christmas decoration kit into The Smurfs & Co. that bundles together a value pack of the game’s new Christmas decor items and buildings, and Tetris Battle and FarmVille are taking an even more straight forward approach, discounting the amount of Facebook credits required to purchase in-game currency until after the holidays. The Sims Social offers less of a discount on holiday items in the Specials section of the store.

Charitable Efforts

As seen in: A Better World, FarmVille

Last but not least is a trend we’ve seen some developers pick up on — converting in-game items and quests into results for real-world charities. While there are a few social games that were created specifically with charity in mind, such as Sojo Studio’s new game WeTopia, this year we’ve seen a couple of games incorporate specific holiday giving campaigns. Toon Ups’ A Better World has challenged its players to perform a million good deeds in real life and report them in the game. If the goal is met by January 31st, the developer will donate $10,000 to Cure.org. Zynga has also incorporated its charitable arm, Zynga.org into FarmVille’s gameplay this year, allowing players to purchase special holiday themed decor items for their farms, the money from which will be given to Save The Children.

The Sims Social: Revenue Forecast and Growth Potential

While it looks like The Sims Social may have lost its chance to pull ahead of Zynga’s CityVille in traffic during 2011, the game could potentially be one of the top-grossing Facebook games of the year.

EA Playfish’s life simulation game has captivated the media with its massive growth, but as the game enters the mature part of its lifespan — where traffic decreases as average revenue per user rises — we turn our attention to the revenue potential, estimating an annual run rate of at least $82 million to $163 million. Our bullish estimate is based on the game’s current demographic spread and monetization activity, EA Playfish’s probable expansion plans in the next few quarters, and the overall strength of the Sims franchise brand. This report will explore key factors behind this revenue forecast in greater detail.

Demographics of Sims Social

Tom Mapham, executive producer for The Sims Social, reports that the game’s largest player demographic is between 25-35, slightly skewed female. Mapham believes a significant percent of these players were PC or console gamers who became familiar with the Sims franchise in their teens.

This demographic pattern contrasts significantly with the bulk of previous Playfish games, such as Restaurant City, which is 65% female and a majority of players 25 and younger. Compared to these and many popular social games, The Sims Social appeals to an older, more gender-balanced playerbase. This has important implications for monetization: According to data collected for our Inside Virtual Goods report series, male gamers between the ages of 18 to 34 tend to monetize in freemium games at higher rates than most other demographics. If Mapham is right, it’s probable this segment will contribute significant revenue to The Sims Social, joining the “Facebook moms” segment who are already prone to monetize at high rates.

Monetization: Revenue Estimates and Virtual Goods in The Sims Social

Our forecast of The Sims Social’s $82 million to $163 million annual run rate is based on two key assumptions:

- That The Sims Social game generates $1 to $2 in revenue per month per daily user, per month. This is a typical revenue pattern for a well-monetized simulation game, according to Inside Virtual Goods.
- That EA Playfish can sustain or exceed the game’s current levels of engagement for a full year.

The Sims Social currently has 6.8 million DAU, and therefore, we estimate it to be earning $6.8-13.6 million in revenue per month, which annualizes to $82-163 million. However, it’s probable that total revenue will be closer to the high end of this forecast, due to the game’s very monetizable user demographics (see above), and EA Playfish’s expansion plans and merchandising (see below).

This estimate is within range of forecasts from two leading video game industry analysts. The first, M2 Research Senior Analyst Billy Pidgeon, estimates that Sims Social will earn $110 million in annual revenue or fall somewhere in a range of $100 million to $120 million. His forecast assumes that 3 to 5% of the playerbase will convert to paying customers, with 3 to 5% of that monetized segment becoming “whales,” (defined here as users that spend in excess of $25 per month on at least one game). Pidgeon’s revenue estimate also takes into account a certain percentage of churn-out after eight months, and relatively strong overall conversion rates. In this, he cites an October analysis by Raptr, a consumer-facing gameplay tracking service, which reports strong conversion of its userbase to EA Playfish’s Facebook game. Pidgeon stressed that $110 million is a conservative estimate, “and it could certainly over-perform,” even taking into account the volatile market of social gaming.

The second analyst, Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter, estimates The Sims Social to be earning $80 million to $160 million in annual revenue. “Electronic Arts said at a recent conference that it expects 2 to 4 cents per DAU,” he tells us. “So roughly 10 million DAUs time 365 days times $.02 equals $73 million at the low end and $146 million at the high end.” For his published estimate, he rounds up to the $80million to $160 million.

Again, the more bullish forecast which approaches or exceeds $163 million in annual revenue is due to the high number of male gamers 25-35 playing The Sims Social, who tend monetize at higher rates than most other age/gender segments. On top of this, recent and upcoming additions to the game will also increase Sims Social’s revenue potential.

What Sells in Sims Social: Categories and Trends

In terms of the particular virtual goods that generate the most revenue in The Sims Social, Playfish’s Tom Mapham reports two categories:

Gameplay or consumable boosts — One-use items that expand or enhance a player’s gameplay, like energy refill items.

Durable virtual goods — Items that are persistent in the game environment beyond a single use. In The Sims Social, this is largely decoration items for the player’s Sim, the Sim’s virtual home, or items with functional benefits that satisfy the Sim’s needs. As the needs mechanic is a core gameplay element to The Sims Social, this provides a unique revenue stream for the game where players are more or less required to purchase items like beds or toilets to achieve winning conditions in the game.

Durable virtual goods that enable new gameplay experiences — Building off of the needs-satisfying items described above, this category of virtual good allows the player to engage in different gameplay activities when purchased. For example, a single-bed allows the player’s Sim to perform sleeping or napping actions while a more expensive double-bed item allows the Sim to engage in sleeping, napping, and sexual intercourse actions (referred to in-game as “WooHoo”). Other items — like a stereo or a gazebo — allow Sims to dance. These item-based interactions also feature a viral component where a player can share the activity on other players’ Facebook Walls, thereby attracting more users to purchase the item.

Near-Future Growth Potential for Sims Social

As our AppData chart below indicates, The Sims Social has recently entered a period of decline across monthly and daily active users as the game transitions into the mature part of its lifespan. (Note that the mid-October sharp drop in MAU reflects a Facebook update to its accounting methods for active users across all apps.)

It is typical for most social games to experience a tapering off effect in their third or fourth month as users with lower lifetime value exit the game and high lifetime value users remain. However, during EA’s Q2 FY2012 earnings call in late October, executives hinted that the company planned to drive second stage user growth in The Sims Social with “expansions.” This term can be applied to small-scale content updates or larger gameplay experience adjustments or additions that run within the app.While declining to detail specifics, EA Playfish’s Mapham indicates that these new features would be similar to the Sims franchise’s popular expansion packs, which tend to offer new gameplay experiences — for example, the recently-released Pets expansion for The Sims 3 PC game. Based on both past performance of Sims expansions and social games currently experimenting with similar content, these additions will likely drive a new growth curve that lasts approximately one to two months.

Additionally, EA is currently exploring merchandising options that could bring new users into the game. For example, in October, the company launched a $15 Facebook Credits gift card branded with The Sims Social that also included a special Sims Social item included in the purchase. Good through Christmas, these gift cards will be sold at Walmart, placing The Sims Social in one of the world’s largest retail chains. Our “Future of Social Gaming 2011” Inside Virtual Goods report estimated the total market opportunity for prepaid cards to be $200-250 million in 2010 revenue, with compound growth rates of 50% to 100% expected for 2011. Much of this revenue will be earned by top Facebook games like The Sims Social. For a rough and conservative estimate, assume 3-5% of The Sims Social’s monthly 36.5 million users purchase one of these Walmart cards (or are given them as gifts). This would translate to $16 to $27 million in revenue on top of revenue earned directly through the game.

In addition to the Walmart prepaid card, the existing brand awareness of The Sims franchise cannot be overstated. The Sims has sold over 140 million copies, including sequels and expansion packs across multiple platforms since the original game launched in early 2000, with the latest expansion, Sims 3: Pets, just released for PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, and Nintendo DS. As awareness and sales of this expansion and other Sims offerings continue over the holidays and beyond, expect some carry over interest to benefit The Sims Social. Whereas most social games rise or fall on the strength of the game experience, EA Playfish’s offering also has over a decade of market awareness and broader franchise strength to draw from.

Final Thoughts on The Sims Social’s Place in Social Gaming History

The Sims Social is unique among social games both in its PC game franchise origins and in the massive growth achieved on the Facebook platform. Given the both the game’s size and the clout of its developer, it’s inevitable that comparisons to Zynga’s CityVille will dominate media discussion as EA continues to release games on Facebook and Zynga moves closer toward its IPO. This discussion lacks context, however, as The Sims Social is a completely different gameplay experience and a much younger product with just 83 days of life on Facebook so far. Rather, we learn more from examining the revenues of The Sims Social, finding that as new game types are adapted to social network platforms, games kind find new — and more profitable — ways to monetize.

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